Can healthy omega-3 levels help you live longer?

Omega-3 is crucial for your health, but can this essential fatty acid increase longevity?

Omega-3 has an impressive list of wellness benefits. New research suggests that healthy levels of this nutrient could even increase your life expectancy.

We look at the benefits of omega-3 and its potential link to longevity, plus how you can find out if you’re getting enough and boost low levels.

We cover:

What is omega-3?

Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that your body cannot make from scratch, so you must get it directly from your diet.

This polyunsaturated fat plays several important roles in your body including:

  • Maintaining heart health
  • Supporting brain function
  • Maintaining vision and eye health

The two most important types of omega-3 are:

  1. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  2. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

Foods with high levels of omega-3 include:

  • Oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel
  • Nuts and seeds, like walnuts and chia seeds
  • Algae, like seaweed, spirulina, and chlorella

Dietary sources of omega-3 include oily fish and nuts

Unfortunately, the modern Western diet tends to be very low in omega-3 and high in omega-6 — another fatty acid found in many processed foods.

Although we need a small amount of omega-6, a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in your blood is thought to promote inflammation in the body, potentially increasing your risk of disease.

What are the health benefits of omega-3?

There’s lots of evidence supporting the wide-ranging health benefits of omega-3, particularly EPA and DHA.

Four health benefits of omega-3 include:

1. Protecting heart health

Omega-3 may help improve several heart disease risk factors. For example, it’s thought to reduce triglycerides and promote a healthy balance of fats. This helps keep blood vessels healthy and prevent atherosclerosis (where your arteries become narrowed, restricting the healthy flow of blood), reducing the risk of cardiovascular events.

2. Boosting brain health

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, may help slow age-related cognitive decline and reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

3. Preventing inflammation

Healthy omega-3 levels are thought to help reduce chronic (long-term) inflammation. Inflammation plays a vital role in your body, helping to fight infection and heal injury. But chronic or excessive inflammation may increase your risk of several serious diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

4. Supporting eye health

DHA is a major structural component of the retina of the eye. So, when you don’t get enough, you may get problems with your vision. DHA may also help prevent macular degeneration, which can cause vision impairment and blindness.

Omega-3 and pregnancy

Omega-3s are critical building blocks for the foetal brain and retina. So, it’s important to get enough omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy.

Research also suggests that healthy omega-3 levels could reduce the risk of early preterm birth [1] and post-partum depression [2].


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Can omega-3 increase life expectancy?

Most of us are aware that omega-3 is good for the heart. However, studies suggest that healthy levels could also help us live longer, healthier lives by reducing our risk of early death from all causes, not just cardiovascular disease.

Recent research showed that people with higher omega-3 (EPA and DHA) blood levels lived longer than people with lower levels — with an increased life expectancy of 4.7 years [3].

A further study found that people with the highest levels of omega-3 had a 34% lower risk of death from any cause than those with the lowest levels [4]. People with higher omega-3 levels also had a significantly (39%) lower risk of cardiovascular events, like heart attacks and strokes.

Interestingly, in Japan, where people eat more oily fish, and so have a higher omega-3 intake than most other countries in the world, life expectancy is higher. People in Japan live on average five years longer than people in the USA [3]. This could be a coincidence, but higher omega-3 blood levels may be part of the explanation.

What is the Omega-3 Index?

The Omega-3 Index measures the percentage of the fatty acids in the blood that are EPA and DHA.

It assesses your omega-3 status and is considered a risk factor for heart disease, just like cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes.

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The previously mentioned studies on longevity used the index as a measure of omega-3 levels. It gives a well-defined and evidence-based target for improving your levels of EPA and DHA, ensuring you’re getting enough of the right omega-3s to protect your health.

What is a good Omega-3 Index?

An Omega-3 Index of 8% or higher is considered optimal for your health, putting you in a lower-risk category for heart disease.

However, most people have an index of around 6% or less. In the USA, an index of 4% or less is common — the highest risk category.

Your index result indicates your heart disease risk as follows:

Risk level Omega-3 Index result
Low >8%
Intermediate 4-8%
High <4%


If your result is less than 8%, you can take steps to improve it with simple changes to your diet.

How to boost your omega-3 level

Ways to boost your omega-3 level:

  • Increase your intake of omega-3 — regularly eating oily fish can increase your omega-3 intake. Aim for at least two portions a week. If you eat a plant-based diet, it can be harder to get enough EPA and DHA, which are mostly found in animal products. Algae are a good source. Your body can also convert omega-3 from plant sources (known as alpha-linolenic acid or ALA), like walnuts and chia seeds, into EPA and DHA, but only in small amounts.
  • Take an omega-3 supplement — if you don’t regularly eat fish, fish oil supplements can boost your omega-3 levels. If you follow a plant-based diet, algae oil supplements can help you get enough EPA and DHA. Always follow your doctor’s advice carefully regarding supplements.

Supplements such as cod liver oil can help boost low omega-3 levels

How can I check I’m getting enough omega-3?

The best way to check if you’re getting enough omega-3 is with a blood test. Our at-home Omega-3 and -6 Blood Test is a great choice if you’re already making positive diet and lifestyle choices but may not have considered how your fatty acid profile can affect your heart health.

Our omega fatty acids test includes the Omega-3 Index, which gives you an actionable insight into your level of beneficial omega-3s. It also includes your omega-6 to -3 ratio. This gives more insights into your heart health, as too much omega-6 can cause chronic inflammation in your body, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Is omega-3 the secret to a long life?

Research suggests that a healthy omega-3 level can add healthy years to your life. Your Omega-3 Index checks whether you’re getting enough of the right omega-3s to optimise your health. And it gives you a target for improving your levels, if necessary, with simple dietary changes.

Of course, many factors can affect life expectancy, such as genetics and lifestyle choices. To learn more about longevity, visit our longevity hub.



  1. Best, K.P., Gibson, R.A. and Makrides, M. (2022) ISSFAL statement number 7 – omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy to reduce preterm birth, Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 186, p. 102495. doi:10.1016/j.plefa.2022.102495.
  2. Nishi, D. et al. (2020) Plasma estradiol levels and antidepressant effects of omega-3 fatty acids in pregnant women, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 85, pp. 29–34. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2019.02.014.
  3. McBurney, M.I. et al. (2021) Using an erythrocyte fatty acid fingerprint to predict risk of all-cause mortality: The Framingham offspring cohort, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 114(4), pp. 1447–1454. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqab195.
  4. Harris, W.S. et al. (2018) Erythrocyte long-chain omega-3 fatty acid levels are inversely associated with mortality and with incident cardiovascular disease: The Framingham Heart Study, Journal of Clinical Lipidology, 12(3). doi:10.1016/j.jacl.2018.02.010.

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